Four Rules of Running
You've probably figured out by now that running isn't like other sports. For one thing there aren't a lot of rules to follow. There are no "out-of-bounds" or "offsides" or "celebrating too much after finishing." But since it's human nature to want at least a few rules, runners have made some up! These "Four Rules of Running" should become the foundation of your running program. They will ensure your continued enjoyment and improvement as a runner and help keep things fun and interesting as well.
Rule #1: Stress and Rest - Your training program should consist of a combination of training stresses followed by recovery. In other words, "hard" one day, then "easy" for a day or two. Then hard again. This "hard/easy" approach allows you to continually improve your fitness level-and stay motivated. "Hard" doesn't mean that you're sucking wind at the end of your run. Maybe it's just a run where you increase the distance or speed slightly. "Easy" can mean a day off or a shorter, slower run that allows your body to refresh itself. Using this method from workout-to-workout, week-to-week and even month-to-month, will help you avoid the beginning runner's #1 Mistake: Doing too much too soon. It'll be easier to get out the door when you're not sore or tired all the time.
Rule #2: Repetition - To improve their free throw shooting, basketball players practice shooting free throws, not jumpers from the top of the key. The same principle goes for runners. Your body improves at what it practices. If you wanna be a better runner, you gotta run. Adding other workouts like cycling or swimming is a great way to maintain or improve your overall fitness level, but putting one foot in front of the other is the only way to continually get better at running.
Rule #3: Variety - The body adapts pretty quickly to a consistent routine. Without stress, there's no stimulus. When that happens, your fitness level plateaus, your motivation weakens and you stop improving. To avoid this, you should vary your training from day-to-day. Use different types of workouts. Vary the amount of training. Emphasize different types of runs for a period of time such as a month.
Rule #4: Gradual progress - Sure, you'd like to be fit and fast tomorrow. But it just doesn't work that way. Doing too much too soon is the highway to burn-out or injury. Instead, think like the tortoise, not the hare. Take it slow. Increase your training gradually. What's the rush, anyway? Be in it for the long haul.
The 10% Rule
As your fitness improves and you start moving along at a good pace, you'll find yourself wanting more and more. More distance, more speed. Don't make the mistake of doing too much too soon. If you run too fast for too long without recovery, your body will break down.
When starting a new running program or resuming a running program after a long layoff or an injury, the golden rule is to increase your mileage or intensities by no more than 10% per week. So if your plan calls for 10 miles this week, you should increase your total miles for next week to 11. The same works for time, if you run 1 hour this week you can run a max of 66 minutes next week. The intensity part works like this, if you ran a tempo run of 5 miles this week, the max your tempo run next week should be is 5.5 miles. And every 3 to 6 weeks, take a "rest" week and reduce your mileage a bit.
By keeping this simple check on your enthusiasm, you'll stay healthy and steadily improve for weeks, months and years.